Kelsen Brewing Company – From the bank to the brewhouse

Five years ago, Paul Kelly was stuck. He trudged into his Boston office each and every day, sat down at his cubicle in a finance office, and wondered what else was out there for him.

Little did he know that a home brewing hobby he began with a friend would boom into his full-time job by that time next year.

“I was in finance, and I was bored. Sitting in a cubicle just wasn’t my thing. I started home brewing, and I was so tired of that Boston commute,” said Kelly.

“The brewing market was up-and-coming, and in many ways, it’s still booming. It all just seemed like a good time.”

Kelly got immersed in all things involved with brewing beer, and soon realized he had an intense passion for it.

“I always felt like I wanted my own thing. I loved the science, the art, and the creativity. But I was also so into the technical processes, and it was a lot of learning what works and what doesn’t. It’s my passion and I love it to this day.”

The Kelsen Brewing Company opened its doors in early 2014 in a limited capacity, and within three months, he quit his finance job to focus on it full-time. He hasn’t looked back.

“I love coming to work every day, but it can be stressful,” he said. “We constantly try to stay relevant, come up with new ideas and do new things.”

Though the brewery is a successful venture, Kelly says there were initial issues he didn’t account for.

“Everything costs more than you budget for when you start a business. You take some risks, and you need to plan everything out,” he said. “We had to re-budget because we needed a lease before we could be approved to brew. We were paying rent before we were making money.”

He said getting things together took much longer than he ever could have anticipated.

“There was a long approval process, and to get up and running took a year from planning to opening for business.”

With four full-time staff on-board, it’s important that the dynamic in the brewery is just right.

“We need to get along. We’re a small crew, and we have to have the right people. Two people have been here for three years, and we recently hired an additional person for the tasting room,” he said. “We come to work with our friends every day, and it’s so important that the personalities all fit.”

In the last month, Kelsen Brewing has begun to push into a new venture: pub food and pizza.

“We got a pizza chef last month, and we’re working our way into pairing food and beer. We’re getting a foothold. Doing basic and a few specialty dishes has been big. When we get more comfortable, we can work on flavour profiles. It’s like our beer, which started small, but now we have 12 on tap.”

As New Hampshire residents hail Kelsen Brewing, the entrepreneur’s venture has begun thriving elsewhere too.

“We distribute all over the state, in a limited form. We do our IPA, Porter and Brown Ale. We do give small amounts of other types to some of our best customers. Right now we also have had growth in sending beer overseas,” he said.

As they expand their reach, they’ve also got the new Cryptic Project on the go. Launched with a huge event on March 31, the venture will see experimental, sour, farmhouse and mixed fermentation beers come out of the taproom.

Their first four were Luminous, a sour ale infused with blackberries, Nocturne, a darker sour with chocolate and raspberries, Faded, a Gose sour with sea salt and coriander, and Hypnotize, a Saison with hibiscus and lemon.

“This mixed fermentation program is going to be a lot of fun, and we want to add more barrels and do wood-aged beers,” said Kelly. “We want to progress through flavour and experimentation. Next year, we’ll see a big push for that in our tasting room.”

As their customer base has grown, they’ve had to expand, which is news that both delights Kelly and keeps his mind racing.

“We just remodeled our tasting room and doubled the seating capacity from 20 to 45-50. We have added a bar, and we have 24-30 seats on the patio in the summer,” he said.

They may grow out of their location soon, as seating is maxed out. Kelly is hoping he doesn’t have to deal with that for another year-and-a-half.

“We’ve grown when we needed to. We have kept on a good path while others have gone on an accelerated route. We’ve been doing it organically, and we’re happy with the way things are going.”

By Jordan Parker